CURITIBA, Brazil – Spain coach Vicente del Bosque confirmed that neither Iker Casillas nor Xavi Hernandez will start his side's final World Cup Group B game against Australia, raising the possibility that both men have played their final game for their country.
The world and European champions have already been eliminated from the competition following defeats against Chile and the Netherlands.
Casillas has been much criticised for his performances in conceding seven goals in those two games and will be replaced by Pepe Reina as Del Bosque attempts to give minutes to all those in his squad that have yet to feature in the tournament.
“For sure Xavi will not play tomorrow (Monday) because he has a slight muscular problem,” said the former Real Madrid boss on Sunday.
“Reina will definitely play.”
Xavi is expected to announce his retirement from international football and his exit from Barcelona after 16 years with the Catalan club in the coming days.
And he could be followed by the likes of Casillas, Xabi Alonso and David Villa as Spain's disastrous showing in Brazil after winning three consecutive major tournaments heralds a changing of the guard.
“I don't think one game more or less is going to give him more recognition than he already has,” Del Bosque said on Xavi missing out on a final World Cup appearance after 133 caps.
“He was the player that covered the most ground from both teams in the game against the Netherlands. They talk about renovation and marginalising the veterans, as if we have failed purely because of them.
“It is everyone who has lost together, but our recognition of Xavi remains huge.”
Questions have been raised over the harmony within the Spanish camp in recent days after Alonso's claim that the team “lacked hunger” after their success in recent years was emphatically rejected by some of his teammates.
And Del Bosque insisted that there had been no problem with his players even after he reportedly reprimanded Cesc Fabregas for his lackadaisical attitude in training on Saturday.
“The coach always has to think about everyone and the player thinks about himself. It happened to all of us when we were players,” he said.
“The Cesc thing is something that happens in training all the time. We don't need to make a mountain out a molehill because it doesn't deserve it.
“The behaviour of the players has been fantastic. It is in defeat that you see how people truly are.”
The 31-year-old Reina will be making his first appearance in the World Cup and is determined to at least end a disappointing tournament on a high.
“It is the dream of any player to play in a World Cup,” said the Liverpool goalkeeper, who spent last seasdon on loan at Napoli.
“I wish it could be in different circumstances but the only thing we can't change is that we can't qualify.
“I don't think we are going to change the opinion of the people a lot because we are already out, but we want to end the competition in the most dignified way possible.” – Sapa-AFP